How Much Space Should Be Around Your Furnace?


Many homeowners are looking for ways to get the best out of their furnaces. But, unfortunately, there’s no all-encompassing method to achieving it. Nonetheless, there are several things you can do to improve the efficiency of your home heating system. For instance, a simple tweak like creating more space around your furnace can help get more out of it. But that’s just one of the many hacks you can employ to make your furnace run efficiently.

However, people tend to underrate or overlook this simple yet effective furnace management trick. They don’t put careful consideration into the positioning of their HVAC system. They barely ever factor in the heating system’s air vents amongst other elements in their interior decor plans. And as a result, they usually set up a design that may jeopardize the furnace’s effectiveness.

Fortunately, you’re not one of those people, and so, we’d like to help you. As a form of assistance, we’ll provide recommendations regarding the optimum amount of space you should leave around your furnace. We’ll also consider several other tips to get the most out of your furnace. Read on to get a rundown of spacing considerations for your home heating systems.

How Much Space Does Your Furnace Need?

When talking about giving your furnace space, we’re not implying breaking up with your furnace. That is unless you’ve found a new furnace or you’re ready to brave through the freezing clutches of the nights without the warmth of your HVAC unit. Nonetheless, you need to create sufficient space around your furnace to allow it to function optimally. I.e. your furnace needs open space around it to do its thing without blockages or hindrances.

The unofficial distance most people recommend as enough space for an HVAC unit is 30 inches. I.e. General opinion accepts that an allowance of at least 30 inches all around the heating system is enough. That means; you should place the furnace at least 30 inches from the nearest wall. Also, every other item in the perimeter of the furnace should be at least 30 inches away.

However, in our opinion, the space you’ll be creating around your furnace should be more than 30 inches. 2 ½ feet may just be enough for a technician to fit in and do their jobs during repairs or maintenance. However, it doesn’t help the unit’s efficiency that much, at least not directly.

In small spaces or tiny apartments, leaving an allowance of 2 ½ feet around the furnace may be appropriate. However, if you have a large apartment with enough space, you should consider extending the extra room around the furnace to at least 4 feet. The larger the room you create, the more plentiful the ventilation and the better the furnace’s efficiency.

That said, if you’re redesigning your basement or doing significant renovations that can affect the size of the apartment, factor your furnace into your plans. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations on the appropriate clearance for the unit. You may also have to change the furnace position depending on the demands of the renovation project.

Where’s The Best Place To Install a Furnace?

The location of your furnace will affect the size of the space you can create around it. It’ll be a lot easier to make sufficient room around your furnace if you initially install the HVAC system in an ideal spot. So, the location of the home heating system should be a paramount consideration when designing your home.

Poor placement of the HVAC unit will inevitably cause you headaches down the line. In addition, the wrong positioning of your furnace may impede its efficiency. It may also make things difficult for the technician during maintenance or repair activities on the unit. And of course, all of these will cause you to spend more than necessary. That said, below are some factors you should consider when deciding the location of your home furnace.

Central Area

Ideally, you want to place the heating system somewhere central to enable even distribution of heat in all directions. Not only that, putting the furnace centrally will remove the need to invest heavily into ducting, and your unit won’t consume more energy than necessary. So, you get to save money on energy bills and get efficient service from the system simultaneously.

Some people will recommend locating the furnace directly in the centre of your home. However, it might impede traffic or cause an obstruction depending on the structural design of your apartment. So instead, you want to find a central location where the unit won’t cause any obstruction. I.e., you want to put it in spaces that are close to the centre of the apartment but don’t get too much traffic, such as pantries and utility closets.

Easy to Access Spots

Another factor you need to consider when deciding a location for your furnace is how accessible you want it to be. Ideally, you want to make it easily accessible for adults but out of reach for children and pets. Considering this factor, it may seem like a good idea to hide the unit in the attic or crawlspace. The unit will be out of sight, won’t consume space in the living area or pose any danger to the kids.

However, you should reconsider putting the unit in the attic. That’s because you’ll have your work cut out for you when you need to do maintenance activities on the unit. In addition, putting the system away means it’ll have to work harder to heat the house, especially if you keep it in the attic. Heat rises, but the space you want to heat is below the attic, so how do you get the rising heat to go down there?

Invariably, your attic will become very hot, but it’ll take much more to circulate sufficient heat around the apartment evenly. As a result, your unit will have to work harder, which will increase your energy consumption. Also, it’ll increase the risk of ceiling damage and fire accidents.

Consider Airflow

You also need to pay attention to the airflow; this is particularly important if you have a gas furnace. The amount of air circulating the furnace will impact the HVAC system’s longevity and your health. In addition, sufficient airflow can help reduce the concentration of harmful carbon monoxide.

Then again, if you have a convection furnace, it’ll need sufficient airflow for uniform heat distribution. So putting such a furnace in areas with stagnant airflow is not the best idea.

Consider the Furnace’s Size

The bigger your HVAC system, the more space it’ll take in your apartment. The size of your furnace may not necessarily influence or determine the amount of space you should put around it. However, it’s an important consideration when deciding the perfect location for the unit in your apartment.

When picking a position for your furnace, you should account for the net space it’ll take. I.e. you should consider the size of the furnace plus the clearance you intend to leave around it. And, ideally, you want to leave more space than usual around larger furnaces. So, the larger your furnace, the more room you should consider leaving.

That said, you should look at the area of your apartment that’ll provide the space estimations you have for the unit. But the site should not only be spacious, but it should also meet other energy efficiency requirements. For instance, if you have a small apartment, you should go with electric furnaces, which often have smaller designs.

In addition, you may consider oil or gas-fueled furnaces for larger areas such as your basement. However, you’ll need to hire experienced professionals to help you install a new furnace, especially if it runs on gas.

Energy Efficiency

Speaking of energy efficiency requirements, the location of your heating system affects its effectiveness to a significant extent. First, you need to put the unit somewhere close to its energy source. However, you can place your electric furnace anywhere in the room if its power cable is long enough to get to the wall outlet.

Also, all furnaces, regardless of their fuel source or heating method, require some level of ventilation to function perfectly. Even radiant furnaces need sufficient ventilation to keep them from overheating and breaking. Plus, they also indirectly utilize the principle of convection.

The distribution of objects in space is crucial if you have radiant heaters. That’s because radiant furnaces work by heating the items in the area, which transfers the heat to the air. So if there are no sufficient objects within the perimeter of a radiant heater, it’ll work harder and consume more energy to heat the space.

As such, radiant heaters may be suited for congested spaces. In the same way, convection furnaces are more suitable for airy and scanty rooms. These heating systems function by pushing out heated air into the environment. The warm air rises and pushes down denser, colder air. The unit will then take in the cold air, heat it and push it out again. The process continues until there’s sufficient heat in the area.

Related Article: What is the Most Efficient Way to Run Your Furnace?

Importance of Leaving Space Around Your Furnace

Leaving Space Around Furnace

By now, you should have a vague idea as to why you should leave space around your furnace. We’ve hinted at many reasons your furnace needs sufficient room around it. But you may have managed to miss them. Therefore, below are some primary reasons you should leave adequate space around your home furnace.

Avoid Possible Fire Hazard.

Anyone who bothered to check the furnace manufacturer’s manual should already know this. Even if you never check the owner’s guide or the manufacturer didn’t include it, the idea is pretty straightforward. Furnaces are appliances that raise the temperature in their environment. How they do it may vary, but overall, they heat things.

One of the risks of heating things is that they may burst into flames when they get to a particular temperature. Also, heated items catch fire quickly, especially when they’re flammable. Then, if your furnace uses mineral fuels, it increases the risk of fire accidents. Nonetheless, you can curtail such undesirable occurrences by keeping highly flammable objects away from the furnace’s vicinity.

Furthermore, you should also push back combustible items from the furnace. These materials include several general-use items such as rugs, rags, wood scraps, clotheslines, curtains, wooden furniture, papers, and kids’ toys. These items can fuel a fire accident, so be sure to remove them from the space around your furnace to avoid a conflagration.

Allow Proper Ventilation and Air Circulation Around the Furnace

Leaving sufficient space around a furnace is beneficial to the unit, especially if it works using convection techniques. The airflow will be without hindrance, and the heat distribution will be uniform. The heating system will also take in cold air and eject warm air into the environment with greater ease. Also, nothing will disturb the rising of the warm air, which fosters proper heat circulation.

Furthermore, adequate ventilation is necessary for furnaces using mineral fuels such as gas and oil. The air aids in the proper combustion of fuel and heat production. In addition, it also helps to prevent gas poisoning. It reduces the concentration of carbon monoxide produced by the gas furnaces and makes the air safer.

Prevent Accidents Involving The Furnace

Accidents involving a furnace can be hazardous, especially if the furnace is in use. Even if you manage to avoid a fire hazard, you risk sustaining significant injuries. For example, falling over a hot burner can leave you with nasty burns, bruises and cuts. Plus, it can damage the unit or other items around the vicinity.

That said, it’s almost impossible to fall over your furnace when there’s sufficient space around it. You can very well avoid the furnace when you have enough room to maneuver your way around it. Also, the kids and pets will have a large enough play area without needing to stray near the unit. And you can easily keep yourself, kids, pets and the heating system out of harm’s way.

Frequently Asked Questions on Furnace Spacing

Should I provide ventilation space in the furnace closet?

Your furnace should initially have its supply and exhaust vents which you’ll install along with the unit. For that, you may need to install a dual or single pipe system with a double inner layer depending on your area’s building codes. Nonetheless, providing ventilation is generally straightforward. Also, you want to leave some space for cool air to get to the exteriors of the furnace. The ventilation space will help prevent the unit from overheating.

How much clearance should I leave in front of my furnace?

We already stated that a space of 30 inches all around your furnace should be enough for it. Regardless, we’ll recommend leaving as much space as you can; the more space, the better. That’s especially true if you use a convection heater.

However, if your heater works based on the principle of radiation, you don’t want to keep the objects too far away for the sake of efficiency. That said, you also need to leave sufficient space for the furnace’s panel doors to enable easy access for repairs.

What can I do if I have space constraints?

The best course of action is to optimize the area of your room to create the most space possible around your furnace. First, carefully plan out your room’s layout and interior design, then re-arrange everything as essential to give your furnace the best service.

For exhaust concerns, you can solve the issue with some piping and ductwork. You can install additional piping to the furnace to collect all fumes, smoke and hazardous gases. A good idea will be to use a dual-pipe system so that one pipe will take out the exhaust while the other takes in air.

Regardless, centre all your considerations around the best interest of your furnace. There are many layout ideas; however, don’t just go with anyone. Put careful thought into the design and layout of your apartment. Also, you should factor in the size of your furnace and the amount of space it’ll take. Needless to say, you need to keep the flammables and combustibles away from the unit. Finally, prioritize the efficiency of your furnace while creating a safe space around it.

Related Article:  10 Common Furnace Problems and How to Fix Them

Final Thoughts

A high-quality and efficient furnace is one thing; the other is determining the perfect place to locate it. And while picking the best spot for your furnace, keep in mind that you’ll need to leave a sufficient level of space around it. These considerations may seem insignificant or unnecessary, but they play a significant role in keeping your furnace’s heat distribution efficient.

That said, you should also employ technicians to take care of your furnace installation, maintenance and repairs. So, if you need a professional HVAC company, do well to check out our furnace installation and repairs services. The highly-trained technicians at ALP Heating will expertly meet your needs regardless of the model or brand of your furnace.